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How memory is read out in the fly brain
Date:7/8/2011

ehavior of the flies was not altered, when certain nerve cells were deactivated only while the flies recalled the associated memory. The responsible nerve cells, known as MB-V2 cells, had to be intact in order for the flies to fully retrieve the associative memory. These cells were, however, not important for the flies' ability to associate odor and electrical stimulus or to stabilize the formed memory. The results thus indicated that MB-V2 cells are involved in a memory 'read-out' pathway.

Alternative pathways of memory processing

Prior to this experiment, it was known that olfactory information is processed in the lateral horn of the fly's brain. As a result of such processing, certain behavior, such as innate odor avoidance or approach, can be released. In contrast, the mushroom body is the site in the fly brain, where a positive or negative value is given to the odor information. Here, the neutral odor is associated with the negative sensation of the electric stimulus to form an aversive odor memory. The neurobiologists' results, which were now published in Nature Neuroscience, showed that MB-V2 cells receive information from the mushroom body and that they, in turn, relay to the nerve cells in the lateral horn.

"For the first time, we demonstrated the function of this alternative pathway via which a learned odor directs avoidance behavior for the memory recall", Hiromu Tanimoto, one of the two leaders of the study, explains. Instinctive behavior, such as the avoidance of certain odors, operates directly via the lateral horn and, as such, remains unperturbed by deactivation of the MB-V2 cells.

"The identification of these cells and the role they play in recalling the contents of the memory are significant milestones on the way to gaining an understanding of how memory guides animal behavior", Tanimoto explains. Perhaps one day, science will thus be able to explain why our brains sometimes get stuck, when trying
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Contact: Stefanie Merker, Ph.D.
merker@neuro.mpg.de
49-898-578-3514
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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